The 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs begin this evening with four games on the schedule. With that being said, here are my predictions for you.
#1 Washington Capitals vs #8 Montreal CanadiensAC: I don’t mean to play devils advocate against most of the world, but it’s going to happen anyway. Jaroslav Halak can steal this series, and as long as Jacques Martin has his troops ready to battle, I don’t think the Caps' 'D' can hold off the offense that Montreal has the ability to produce. However, it truly comes down to Halak. Also, take into consideration that Jose Theodore was struck by an Alex Ovechkin shot today at practice and has since been said to have suffered an injury. Either way, the Habs are the Eastern Conference's darkhorse team. Montreal in Six.
#2 New Jersey Devils vs #7 Philadelphia FlyersAC: It’s the playoffs so all the regular season numbers can be thrown out the window. If Martin Brodeur plays like the Brodeur we all know and remember, the Flyers are toast. It’s going to be a fantastic series, that will come down to the wire of the final period of game seven. If the Flyers are to have a shot, captain Mike Richards, Chris Pronger and Kimmo Timonen need to step up and shut down Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise and company. Even with the season series heavily favoring the Flyers, this is a brand new season. Devils in Seven.
#3 Buffalo Sabres vs #6 Boston BruinsAC: Outside of Tyler Myers, who truly stands out on the Sabres blue line? That’s correct, no one. If Ryan Miller is the man the entire series, the Sabres are going to give Boston a tough test to pass. However, Tuukka Rask will shine in this series and there is one thing the Bruins have over the Sabres and that is experience. Zdeno Chara is the x-factor in this series and he will step up huge to help the Bruins advance. Bruins in Six.
#4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs #5 Ottawa SenatorsAC: The Ottawa Senators have a bunch of playoff rookies on their roster that will heavily play a factor in this series. These are the defending champs, with amazing balance up and down the roster. Marc-Andre Fleury has two finals appearances. The Senators are without Filip Kuba and Alexei Kovalev to start this series, which puts even more pressure on the youngsters to step up in this second series. Expect this one to end quick, folks.. Penguins in Five.
#1 San Jose Sharks vs #8 Colorado AvalancheAC: Craig Anderson will not be the reason the Avs do not make it to the second round. It is the fact that the Avalanche, who are one of the youngest teams in the league, have a bunch of teenagers stepping into the limelight known as the NHL's second season. The experience that the young roster players will gain from these playoffs will carry them to a more positive outlook for next season. It's one series Sharks fans do not have to worry about when it comes to choking. The big guns will shine in this one. Sharks in Four.
#2 Chicago Blackhawks vs #7 Nashville PredatorsAC: The experience of last year's playoffs will pay huge dividends for the 'Hawks in this first round series. It will be the same situation for Pekka Rinne and the Predators as they move ahead to next season. The boys, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and so on, turned into men last spring. It will be close, but the Hawks will inch this one out. Chicago in Seven.
#3 Vancouver Canucks vs #6 Los Angeles KingsAC: This is the second best series, in my opinion, in the West. Expect some excitement and energy to come from this series. With the veterans on board in the likes of Ryan Smyth, Justin Williams, Rob Scuderi, Fredrik Modin and Michal Handzus - to name a few - for the Kings as well as the demons that Luongo has in his closet on past playoff performances, I expect to see the Kings advance to the second round. Shutdown the top line in Vancouver and all will be said and done. Kings in Six.
#4 Phoenix Coyotes vs #5 Detroit Red WingsAC: The other series I am very much looking forward to in the West. As much as I’d love to see the Coyotes advance and knock out the Wings, it is highly unlikely. There is just too much leadership on the old Wings' roster. Age will play a factor but the experience will win out above all. Even if Jimmy Howard fails, one of the best playoff goaltenders of all time sits on the bench in Detroit. Turning to Osgood is an advantage if needed. However, the need is doubtful. Wings in Five.
WSH v MTL – MTL in 6
NJD v PHI - NJD in 7
BUF v BOS – BOS in 6
PIT v OTT – PIT in 5
SJ v COL – SJ in 4
CHI v NSH – CHI in 7
VAN v LA – LA in 6
DET v PHX – DET in 5